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Title: Investigation into the relevance of BCR-ABL for the survival of cancer stem cells in chronic myeloid leukaemia
Author: Hamilton, Ashley
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2010
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Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) is a clonal myeloproliferative disorder of the haemopoietic stem cell, defined by the Philadelphia chromosome (Ph) - the outcome of a balanced, reciprocal translocation between the long arms of chromosomes 9 and 22. The novel fusion oncogene generated on chromosome 22 as a result of this translocation is called BCR-ABL. In the majority of patients, this oncogene transcribes a 210-kDa constitutively active protein tyrosine kinase, often referred to as p210BCR-ABL, which is necessary for the transformation of the disease. The introduction of the orally available, tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) - imatinib mesylate (IM) - marked a major advance in CML treatment in terms of efficacy and tolerability and has now become the first line of therapy. IM acts by competing with ATP to block ABL-kinase activity, resulting in the selective apoptosis induction of BCR-ABL+ cells. However, despite the success of IM as standard therapy for CML, only a small proportion of patients obtain a complete molecular response, where they become negative for BCR-ABL transcripts by RTPCR. It is hypothesised that this minimal residual disease is the result of a primitive quiescent subpopulation of leukaemic cells, which may be the cause for relapse at a later date. Another major clinical concern is the observation of molecular resistance in IM-treated patients. Proposed mechanisms of resistance include BCR-ABL amplification, decreased intracellular IM concentrations caused by drug efflux proteins such as multi drug resistance-1 and the development of point mutations within the ABL-kinase domain. In an attempt to overcome IMresistance, a second generation of BCR-ABL inhibitors has been developed. Dasatinib (BMS-354825, Sprycel) is a TKI developed for the treatment of IM resistant or -intolerant patients with Ph+ leukaemias, which has a 325-fold greater potency than IM against cells expressing wild-type BCR-ABL, and is effective against all IM-resistant BCR-ABL mutants tested in vitro, except T315I. Previously, we showed that dasatinib induced durable inhibition of BCR-ABL and impressive clearance of Ph+ cells, however, the primitive quiescent cell population did not appear to undergo apoptosis even after several days TKI exposure. Therefore, it was still not clear whether early CML progenitor cells depend on BCR-ABL for their growth and survival. In this study we have attempted to determine whether CML stem cells are dependent on BCR-ABL TK activity for their survival and/or proliferation using dasatinib treatment and aimed to characterise the cells which survived drug exposure. We found that 10% of the CML cells were able to survive the dasatinib treatment. We also showed that maximal BCR-ABL TK inhibition was achieved in the surviving CML cells, both in the bulk population of cells and the more problematic primitive stem cell population. Those cells which survived the dasatinib treatment were found to be primitive, residing mainly in the undivided cell fraction and the very early cell divisions. Since these BCR-ABL TK-inhibited, resistant cells were also able to grow when re-cultured in cytokines and form longterm culture-initiating cell (LTC-IC) colonies; these data suggested that ~10% of primitive CD34+ CML cells are not addicted to BCR-ABL TK activity for their survival. This also suggested that these primitive, resistant CML cells appeared to survive and proliferate by BCR-ABL-independent mechanisms. Therefore, the next experiments were then designed to investigate the cellular process of autophagy as a potential means of primitive CML cell survival. Analysis of the properties of CD34+ CML cells which remained viable following dasatinib treatment, revealed the existence of cytoplasmic autophagic structures determined by electron microscopy and significantly increased autophagosome-asociated LC3-II, particularly in the cells cultured without growth factors (GF)s. This suggested that autophagy is induced following GF deprivation of CML cells and is significantly increased within these cells, upon BCR-ABL inhibition following dasatinib treatment. Furthermore, we also found that the inhibition of autophagy greatly potentiated the effect of TKI treatment on the reduction of primitive CML progenitor cells, in terms of the effective eradication of functionally defined colony forming cells and LTC-ICs. Overall, this thesis has shown for the first time that the most TKI-resistant primitive CML cells are likely to be independent of BCR-ABL TK activity for their proliferation and/or survival. Furthermore, we have shown that these resistant CML stem cells rely on the BCR-ABL independent autophagy process for survival in response to stressful conditions, such as, GF deprivation and TKI treatment.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: R Medicine (General) ; RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology